4 of the Most Dangerous Myths about Washing your Hands

Hot water is better than cold water for effective handwashing

Scientists have found that various temperatures had "no effect on transient or resident bacterial reduction." Not only does hot water not show any benefit, but it might increase the "irritant capacity" of some soaps, causing dermatitis.

Hand sanitizers kill germs more effectively than soap

Using alcohol-based hand-hygiene products is, in general, not more effective than washing your hands with plain soap and water.

Frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizers promotes healthy skin

In fact, contact dermatitis can develop from frequent and repeated use of hand-hygiene products, exposure to chemicals, and glove use.

Soap with triclosan is an effective anti-microbial for handwashing

A recent study compared an antibacterial soap containing triclosan with a non-antibacterial soap. The results showed that the antibacterial soap did not provide any additional benefit. In addition, concerns have been raised about the use of triclosan becasue of the potential development of bacterial resistance.

Did you know that antibacterial soaps are tied to a public health crisis? It's true. The fervent use of antibacterial soaps and other antimicrobial products significantly contribute to a growing scourge: antibiotic-resistanct bacteria.

Antibiotic-resistant disease is a problem that few pay attention to, despite the fact that it's been a known, growing phenomenon for several decades. It's now become one of the most serious public health threats of the 21st century. Antibiotic-resistant infections now claim more lives each year that the "modern plague" of AIDS, and cost the American health care system some $20 billion a year.

According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 18,000 people died from invasive MRSA infection in the United States, in 2005. And that's just ONE antibiotic-resistant bug. The list of resistant microbes is steadily growing.

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Proper Hand Washing Technique

However, it's important to use proper hand washing technique. To make sure you're actually removing the germs when you wash your hands, follow these guidelines:

1. Use warm water

2. Use a mild soap

3. Work up a good lather, all the way up to your wrists, for at least 20 seconds

4. Make sure you cover all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers, and around and below your fingernails

5. Rinse thoroughly under running water

6. Dry your hands with a clean towel or let them air dry

7. In public places, use a paper towel to open the door as a protection from germs that the handles may harbor

Also, remember that your skin is actually your primary defense against bacteria, not the soap, so resist the urge to become obsessive about washing your hands. Over-washing can easily reduce the protective oils in your skin (especially in the winter and dry desert environments) and cause your skin to crack--offering easy entry for bacteria and viruses into your body.

Instead, simply wash your hands when they look dirty, and prior to, or after, performing certain tasks that could spread infection, such as in these instances:

●Before and after preparing food, especially when handling raw meat and poultry

●Before eating

●Before and after treating wounds or taking / giving medicine

●Before touching a sick or injured person

●Before inserting contact lenses

●After using the toliet or changing a diaper

●After touching an animal, its toys, leashes, or waste

●After blowing your nose or coughing / sneezing into your hands

●After handling garbage or potentially contaminated waste

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